How low sensory gym sessions are attracting more people to Pudsey Leisure Centre

The low sensory gym at Pudsey Leisure Centre. Micheal Raynard (left) with facility manager Dean McKenna. Photo: Noah Roberts

By Noah Roberts

Pudsey Leisure Centre now has low sensory gym sessions, thanks to feedback from the parent of an autistic child. 

The centre is a red brick building which is over 90 years old. Standing right in the centre of the market town, it is a well-loved meeting place and landmark for locals. 

Centre manager Dean McKenna said it is a council run public facility that has been used by people of all ages and added: “It is my goal to make this the most important building in town.”

The centre underwent a refurbishment of their gym facilities in 2021, it was freshly painted, new-lighting and a new music system fitted on top of a full refit of the gym equipment. 

pudsey leisure centre
Improvements: Pudsey Leisure Centre

Dean said he has worked hard with the support of his dedicated staff team to stay relevant to his customers and local residents. “Listening to feedback of our customers is an important part of what we do”.

Customers were asked to leave feedback about the new gym facilities, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. But one parent’s suggestion caught Dean’s attention.

They suggested the gym could be more made accessible for disabled customers. The parent put forward suggestions about dimming the lights and reducing or removing music so to provide a less intense experience for some gym users.

“You know when you get that one piece of feedback that is not positive? It got under my skin and I thought I have to address this. Everyone knows everyone, and we are a service, we want to have something for everyone.”

Many people who have disabilities, are neurodivergent, have mental health needs and have sensory difficulties which can mean a traditional gym which usually has brights lights, loud music, TV playing and is high energy, feels too much for them. 

After many meetings and planning Dean was able to launch a new accessible low sensory gym session at Pudsey.

Gym sessions are available on Wednesday teatime and Sunday, and times can be found on the Active Leeds website. Sessions are popular, so booking is advised.

When you arrive, you will see a sign at the gym entrance asking people to keep noise to a minimum and to use their own own headphones as music is switched off in the gym, during these special sessions. Lighting is dimmed where possible.

Gym instructor Michael Reynard (pictured) is on shift every Sunday and Shirley who works on reception and who knows lots about the accessible features of the centre.

“This is why I work hard to provide cheap activities, like gym, netball, basketball, swim inflatable sessions for children during the school holidays. We run parent and toddlers sessions.

“We served hundreds of children over the Easter half term holiday; we had a gym was full of young people using their facilities. We made it extra special by providing all children with Easter Eggs. We know the cost of living is affecting families and by providing place where children and young people can spend time with each other during the holidays takes a little bit of pressure off families.” 

Since launching the low sensory gym, Dean has been able to take his learning and share it with the other leisure centres in Leeds and this has led to two others offering the same low sensory gym sessions. 

The gym has space between equipment so that people who used mobility aids/ wheelchair can get around with ease and some equipment can be used whilst seated. There is disabled blue badge parking directly outside the centre door, a ramp to the electric doors into the building and lifts to both floors. The swimming pool has a hoist and offers a Sunday disabled swim session. 

This year Dean will be focusing on launching a homeschool program, that will cover some of the PE syllabus for young people who are not able to be in mainstream classes at school. 

Dean is always open to new ideas, so feel free to call in have a chat and take a tour of the facilities.

Sponsored content

Farsley Celtic partnership


  1. It’s the aircon that needs sorting, it’s totally useless, always breaking down and when it is working you can hardly feel any cooling from them , especially in cardio area, where its probably most needed


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.